Two Top Gawker Editors Quit Over Removal of Conde Nast ‘Outing’ Story

Gawker does not have plans to immediately replace them.

gawker-media-secuirtyTwo of the Gawker Media organization’s top names, Editor in Chief Max Read and Executive Editor Tommy Craggs, resigned their positions today.

In case you missed it (you didn’t), the site made more news than usual over the past week, most of it centered on a post that served to “out” a married-with-children chief financial officer at Conde Nast who allegedly sought sex with a male prostitute. After the story attracted overwhelmingly negative attention from both the public and a string of prominent media figures, Gawker’s executive management team voted to take it down after less than 24 hours.

Founder Nick Denton then explained the decision in a lengthy Friday afternoon post that saw him argue that “the line has moved” and that not all “secrets” are “equally worthy of exposure.”

Gawker’s own J.K. Trotter just reported the resignations, sharing internal memos written by Read and Craggs. According to their own descriptions, the company’s editorial staff saw the decision–which came down to a 4-2 vote among the six managing partners–as “an indefensible breach of the notoriously strong firewall” that allows Gawker to maintain its stubborn editorial independence from advertisers and other parties who might try to influence its coverage. (For context, Google “Gawker gamergate”–and good luck finding your way out of that rabbit hole.)

From Craggs:

“On Friday, I told my fellow managing partners…I would have to resign if they voted to remove a story I’d edited and approved.

…none of the partners in a company that prides itself on its frankness had the decency or intellectual wherewithal to make the case to the executive editor of Gawker Media for undermining (if not immolating) his job, forsaking Gawker’s too-often-stated, too-little-tested principles, and doing the most extreme and self-destructive thing a shop like ours could ever do.”

Read’s note also pits the outlet’s managers against its editors:

“[The removal was an] unacceptable and unprecedented breach of the editorial firewall, and turns Gawker’s claim to be the world’s largest independent media company into, essentially, a joke.

I find myself forced to resign, effective immediately.

This was not an easy decision. I hope the partnership group recognizes the degree to which it has betrayed the trust of editorial, and takes steps to materially reinforce its independence.”

In a separate note to the site’s editors, Read calls them “a rare class of talent” and tells them that the future of both the site and the larger company is “now in your hands.”

In a personal post on Friday, now-former Gawker writer Adam Weinstein also revealed that he’d been fired last month and challenged readers to “knock yourself out wondering how many [previous Gawker employees] were actually fired!”

These moves come at a sensitive time for Gawker, which faces a $100 million lawsuit filed by wrestler/reality star Hulk Hogan over a sex tape. Gawker’s general counsel Heather Dietrick told The Daily News that “it’s difficult to believe that he’s truly concerned about the publication of what is a very grainy few seconds of sex” amid claims that the FBI has assisted Hogan in his suit.

No date has been set for the trial, and Gawker has not announced any plans to replace Read, Craggs or Weinstein.

For the time being, the site will presumably continue to run as it has for the past 12-plus years.